MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Most of us start our day with a rinse, lather and repeat. Americans spend approximately $4 billion on shampoo every year. But does it matter if we use cheap or expensive shampoos?

Linda Gearke is the owner and President of Strictly Personal, a Minneapolis company that develops hair care and other personal care products for clients around the world.

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“The answer is you can buy a very expensive shampoo and get everything you’re paying for. Or you can buy a cheap shampoo that’s every bit as good as the expensive one,” said Gearke. “It’s all about the ingredients.”

Gearke said there are bad shampoos in almost every manufacturer’s line of products, whether cheap or expensive.

She said to figure out which is which: you have to look at the first ingredient listed after water: That’s the surfactant, which the stuff that actually cleans your hair.

“Is it sodium-based or ammonia-based. If it’s an ammonia sulfate, that’s very harsh for the hair,” said Gearke.

She said ammonia sulfates can strip the color out of hair, which is a big deal when people spend so much money on hair coloring.

“Everyone’s coloring their hair. As soon as you use the ammonia sulfate, that $100 coloring goes right down the drain with the shampoo,” she said.

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However, often you can find similar ingredients on very differently priced products. Gearke pointed to the Matrix Biolage Fortifying Shampoo, we paid $23 at Target, about a $1 an ounce.

“It’s a very good shampoo, but Tresseme [Moisture Shampoo with Vitamin E] sells for about $3 — 15 to 17 cents an ounce. It’s an equally, if not better shampoo,” she said.

Many people right now are interested in sulfate-free shampoos like Pureology, which can cost $1.33 per ounce.

“That is definitely the most gentle on your hair. The problem is they don’t necessarily clean as well as the sodium sulfates,” said Gearke.

After you look at the surfactant, it’s about what Gearke calls “the goodies.” She said some of them are certainly worth buying.

Right now, she’s shopping for Argan Oil for shine; Jojoba Oil for moisturizing, and Keratin protein for strength. But the key is: how much of that ingredient is in the product?

“Is it in the first 6 to 10 ingredients or is it at the bottom or the end of a long list? You know, it’s really not in there at a high enough level to do you any good. Sometimes, you find a very expensive shampoo with all the goodies at the end,” she said.

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Jason DeRusha